Posted in writing

My Middle Grade Debut, Coming from Scholastic + A Giveaway!

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If you follow me on any of me seven billion social media accounts you would’ve seen that last night my debut novel was announced! I am unofficially calling it #GHOSTBOOK just to give people something to refer to it by until my official title is announced. Here’s a quick blurb from the announcement:

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You can add the book on Goodreads here and make sure to enter my giveaway to win cute ghost swag!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in writing, Writing Snacks

Writing Snacks: Bakerly USA

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We are smack in the middle of NanoWrimo 2017 and I hope you’re all plowing through your words! I’m being a rebel this Nano and finishing a 50K project of which I already had 15K written. I’m only at 20K now but I hope to pick up the pace for the rest of the month and finish on time!

I know I’m not alone when I say snacks definitely keep me going through writing sprints so I’m starting a new series on my blog to discuss my fav snacks to eat while writing! First up is Bakerly USA who was nice enough to send over a GIANT BOX OF SNACKS for me to eat and review.

First, the bread. Omfg the bread.

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The box literally smelled like a bakery. The bread was super fresh and delicious and I used it to make both garlic bread and sandwiches and was very upset when they finished. The bread was probably my favorite item I was sent. I used the baguettes for sandwiches and had the dinner rolls with lasagna and a few other pasta dishes I made throughout the week. Not gonna lie, also stuffed the rolls with cheese and munched away on them as I tried to hit my word count for the day.

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The Strawberry crepes were good, but a tiny bit dry for my liking. If you dip them in something though (LIKE NUTELLA) they’re perfect. The chocolate and caramel filled crepes were delicious and since I’m trying to lose weight (LOL @ the bread) they were a great snack choice at only 130 calories for each crepe. They were also SUPER delicious with coffee in the morning so 10/10 would recommend.

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I’m not a huge fan of getting food via the mail on a consistent basis but I would definitely order some of these Bakerly products in the future, especially if I have a deadline coming up. The good peeps at Bakerly also sent me a hat and pencils which I can’t eat, but which were super cute.So if you’re looking for delicious, healthy and freshly made snacks for your next writing session, check out bakerly.com!

 

 

 

Posted in writing

Alchemist of Apeiron, MG Fantasy

Pitch América

Name: Stefany Valentine

Genre: Middle Grade/ Fantasy – Urban

Title: Alchemist of Apeiron

Word Count: 51,000

Themes: #ownvoices

35-Word Pitch:

A 12-year-old Latina must rescue her sister from an alternate dimension by absorbing the power of The Infinite Book of Alchemy.

First 500 words:

The tour guide led us up the steps from Astor Hall to the McGraw Rotunda. My eyes panned the scene as the walls shifted from stonework to wood. Murals hung along the walls capturing snapshots of ancient history. Deep burgundy wood carved into a set of arching pillars and climbed up the walls before holding the elaborate ceiling in place. A gold accented frame encasing a painting of some naked guy holding fire in his hands. I thought the portrait was weird, but my lips inadvertently shaped into and O with awe.

“If you’ll look around, you’ll see that the New York…

View original post 399 more words

Posted in Gaming, Nintendo Switch

Pink Nintendo Switch Cover Review

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I’ve been spending lots of time searching for new accessories for my Nintendo Switch and so far (at least color-wise) choices are limited. That’s to be expected, since the Switch is relatively new but there are a few super cute options available if you’re willing to wait a little longer. I purchased a pink silicone cover for my switch, as well as Joy Con covers, from Amazon.

I got each item from a different vendor, when I ordered them there were no complete silicone cover sets but hopefully some will be available in the future. The console case  is $5.29 on Amazon. You can get the case here: WinnerEco Nintendo Switch Case – Pink.  As you can tell by the two pictures I posted above, depending on the lighting the pink can look quite different. I would say it’s closer to a salmon pink than a bubble gum pink.

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The case lines up perfectly with the switch buttons and kickstand in the back. My only gripe, and you could argue it’s a big one, is that it’s quite loose on the back part of the console. When I put it into my case, it slips some and I have to adjust it. I don’t notice it as much as I’m playing though which is a bonus, but be aware that it’s not a tight fit at all.

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The Joy Con covers cost $3.40 and you can purchase them here: Alloet Gamepad Protective Silicone Case Covers. The controller covers took a bit longer to arrive (about two weeks) and they fit *almost* perfectly. There is a bit of the Joy Con exposed near the seam but aside from that it’s a pretty good fit. What I like most about these covers is how cushioned the back grip is.

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If the Switch is laying flat, the back grips elevate it slightly, which is not a huge deal and gives extra support if the kick stand is engaged.

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The case a joy con covers are both comfortable and super lightweight. I don’t know how comfortable I’d feel about dropping my Switch and it being completely intact but I think it’ll be a good protection from scratches and the occasional light bump. If you have small kids, this might not be the best solution for them. img_6822-e1502734250951.jpg

 

Lastly, I purchased the super cute paw print thumb caps! Amazon has a ten piece set in five colors for ten bucks (Available here) or you can get just the two piece set for $5.29 here: 2PCS Silicone Analog Controller Thumb Stick Grips Cap.

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I’ve had these the longest and they’re holding up really well. They fit perfectly over the thumbsticks although depending on the game you’re playing they may rotate (but won’t come off) during gameplay which is not a big deal in my opinion. The pink matches up with the joy con/console cover so all three pieces make a great set! Hope you found this review helpful and be on the lookout for my YouTube video review coming soon. I’ll link all the items mentioned in this post below and please let me know if you have any questions about them either in the comments or on Twitter, follow me! https://twitter.com/Claribel_Ortega

 

 

 

Posted in writing

Best Book/Writing Podcasts on Youtube

Knotmagick

Last week I shared my favorite knitting podcasts, and this time I thought I’d show you a few of my favorite book related podcasts. Some of these are just review shows, others concentrate on the craft of writing or on publishing. If you were daunted by the long episodes on the knitting list, fear not. Writers are natural introverts, so most, if not all of these, average shows that are between 5-15 minutes long.

First, there’s iWriterly. Meg LaTorre-Snyder is a literary agent, and talks a lot about the ins and outs of the publishing industry, usually with a cheeky twist.

Another industry-related channel is the Historical Novel Society. This isn’t so much a podcast as it is a series of videos from conventions, with interviews and panels with authors of historical fiction. Sometimes they’re geared toward craft, other times it’s more about publishing itself, or research.

Claribel Ortega tends to…

View original post 291 more words

Posted in 3 Gifs and an agent, interview, literary agent, writing

Three Gifs & An Agent: Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency

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I’m very excited about this post.

New series alert! I’ve been hoping to feature literary agent interviews on my blog for quite some time and I finally have my first post to share: an interview with Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency! Like anything I do though, Gifs are involved, so below you’ll find out more about Molly’s career as an agent, what she’s looking for now and a few choice Gifs to describe her job. Enjoy!


 

1. I know it’s different for almost every agent I’ve ever spoken to so, how did you get into agenting?

I worked for years in various roles in children’s publishing, and then I took a few years off and had children, moved from New York to London, and thought about what I wanted to do next. Jenny Bent and I are old friends, and she approached me about joining the Bent Agency. I had no experience as an agent, but I had plenty of publishing experience, and the idea of trying something new was really appealing after being away from the industry for a few years. I joined the agency in 2012.

 

2. What are the top three things you look for in a query/any tips for querying authors?

Well, thoughtfully-chosen comp titles are always really useful. Obviously “for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and HARRY POTTER” isn’t helpful at all, but if the comp titles are books that were original/unusual themselves, or books that I’ve said I particularly enjoyed, I’ll always be intrigued. I always appreciate when authors use the query letter to tell me more about their book than about themselves — I see a lot of queries are more life story than pitch. And if there’s a specific reason an author is querying me, I like to know — whether it’s because they enjoyed a book by one of my clients, or they feel they have something in common with me, or they remember something useful/amusing/embarrassing that I said on Twitter.

3. What are some things that will make you stop reading requested material?

Just one thing will make me stop reading: feeling bored.

4. What do you look for in a story? What really grabs your attention?

I look at writing even more than I look at story. I love language; I love feeling like a writer has chosen every word carefully. Craft is important to me as plot. That said, I like stories that make me forget that I’m evaluating them. Anything that draws me in to the point where I’m just enjoying the ride is special. 

5. Anything in particular you’re looking for right now?

I’d love to find a witty MG adventure or fantasy that will appeal to both American and overseas publishers. And for a long time, I’ve been interested in writing from the South Asian diaspora — I’d love to find a YA project that feels like Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy or Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

6. Do you have any trend predictions for what’s next in the kidlit world?

I think there’s a real openness right now to perspectives that feel fresh and different to publishers, and a desire to think about the readers who don’t often see themselves in MG and YA fiction. Books that would have been considered ’too niche’ a few years ago are getting a lot more visibility. My hope is that that’s not a trend, but a shift in the way we think about publishing. It’s long past time.

7. Describe your ideal client.

Talented, patient, resilient, responsive.

8. Anything exciting coming up for your clients?

Too many things to mention! I’ve been sitting on a bunch of deal announcements for various reasons (did you know some publishers won’t let a deal be announced until the contract is signed? And I’ve sold a few on proposal that I’ll announce when we have full drafts to share with foreign publishers). I sold one at auction to an editor who described it as ‘the meta-YA project of my dreams’; another is from one of my clients who already has a wide audience for their YA fantasy. My client Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock is shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in the UK and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (I’ve been practicing pronouncing that) in Germany, which is hugely exciting. Kendra Fortmeyer’s debut HOLE IN THE MIDDLE comes out in the UK this summer, and I think it will establish her as a really powerful new voice in YA. And much more. I could kvell all day about my clients!

9. What’s your favorite/least favorite part of being an agent?

The day I forced myself to admit that I will never, ever catch up on my reading was a tough one. There will always be more submissions to read. For someone like me, who basically gets high on completing tasks, this is a grim fact.

On the other hand, there’s nothing like the thrill of finding gold in my submissions. I remember reading an incredible manuscript on a flight from London to New York once — with no wifi on the flight, and none of those seat-back phones you used to find on airplanes — and asking the stranger sitting next to me to read a page of it, because I had to share my excitement with someone. I wish I’d got her address so I can send her an ARC when it comes in.

10.   Describe being an agent in three GIFS.

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To query Molly, please review The Bent Agency’s submissions guidelines
Then email hawnqueries@thebentagency.com

Molly Ker Hawn represents authors who write for the young adult and middle grade market.

Posted in AmQuerying Series, literary agent, writing

#AmQuerying: With Kosoko Jackson

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Heyo! It’s been a while but I am back with another post for the #Amquerying series, with the always sassy and super-amazing, Kosoko Jackson! For those of you who don’t know, querying is the process of procuring a literary agent and it can be equal parts soul crushing and fantastic.
You can follow Kosoko on Twitter here and read below to find out how he got his agent, how he actually misses querying (WHAT?!) and why anything is possible in publishing!
1. How did you prepare for querying? Did you use query tracker or any similar tools?
I was a huge fan of query-tracker and I used the paid service obsessively. It was a great site to have everything in one place and made the information easy to find. QTs search feature isn’t the best (for example, if you are looking for an agent that does “Young adult” and “thriller” it gives you agents that do “YA” only, “thriller” only AND “both” instead of just the both), so I also used MSWL; the hashtag & the website. I then would spend several minutes searching for interviews to help personalize the query letters.
2. Was the book you got your agent for the first book you wrote/queried? 
Ha. Nope. A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER is the 3rd book I queried. Effectively, this is the 3rd iteration of this novel, so you could say it’s my 5th novel written.
 
3. What was the process like for you? Can you share stats? If not, can you tell us a timeline of how long it took for you to get your agent? 
Sure! If you include all 3 version of A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER, and even the R&Rs from patient agents, I sent 257 queries. From those I got I’d say in the ‘upper 30s’ for full requests. I ended with 3 offers.
My agent timeline was long. I got a “Favorite” from Louise Fury in #DvPit in 2016. She sat on the full, and then I nudged her saying I go into Pitch Wars in August. She then got the revised version in November, and I nudged her again when I got an offer in March. It was about 11 months from when I sent her the first query, to when she offered. This goes to show anything can happen!
 
 4. How did you feel during the process of querying? Anxious, stressed, cool? 
I liked querying (and I kinda miss it?). It was fun to learn about new agents, seeing and learning about agents and such. It felt a little like a scavenger hunt. I think there’s a querying learning curve; with any novel you query. The first full is an exceptional feeling; the first full rejection stings, and the same with queries. I strongly believe in the “you need to grow thick skin” mentality when it comes to querying. Consequently, with 250 rejections, I learned to breeze through them and not really feel any sort of personal hate or pain. This is a business, and the quicker you learn that the better. Sometimes, you write something that’s good–it’s actually great–but not great for the market. It happens.
I will say my emotions went through the whole spectrum, as I feel all querying authors emotions do. That’s normal, and that’s part of the fun. I’d suggest embracing it. You learn a lot about yourself during querying–and how you deal with stress. Publishing is a slow game. Querying, is the fastest part.
 
5. How did you cope with the emotions involved with querying? Did you keep busy doing anything else? 
Personally? I bury myself in my work. When I got a rejection? I sent out 10 more queries. Not 1. not 4. 10. I just push through. I’m stubborn. It’s adorable, to be honest. (bold by me, Claribel, because this is both true and hilarious) I would NOT suggest this to anyone else. Reason why? When I had to nudge agents I had to nudge 78 of them. That was a lot of manage.
And like any author, I worked on other things while waiting.
6. Anything unexpected about the querying process for you? 
I think what was unexpected was the kindness of strangers. When I first wrote this novel, it was a speculative ‘what if’ version and far more political. I had a line in my query letter that suggested parallels to a specific war. An agent who asked for a R & R she suggested I base the novel in that war, instead of making a reference to it. That simple change got me where I was today. It made my novel unique, insightful and tapped into something no one really talked about in YA. This agent didn’t have to tell me that. She didn’t have to write a whole page note from my 10 pages. But she did, and I’m here–with an agent–because of it.
I should note that though this was from the kindness of the agent’s heart, I know it came from my social media presence. Be kind to everyone, folks. Engage. Agents are people too. They like what you like. They love what you love and they will chat with you like a normal person if you don’t view them like some Gods on high. It can help and make an agent put in that little bit of effort.
 
7. If you could give querying authors one piece of advice what would it be? 
Throw caution to the wind! Many people will disagree with me but when I say query widely, I mean like VERY widely. Here’s how I did my novel. To its benefit or detriment, my novel is Historical, a Thriller, LGBT, And a little more lit-ficy- than most YA. So I searched for agents using those parameters. If they OPENLY said they were looking for any of those 4 factors in YA, they were ‘tier one’. If they said,  “I like WXY but not Z” Tier 2. Tier 3 were people who never openly said no to any of the genre’s mentioned, but didn’t say yes. This not only made a priority list in my mind, but also helped to see how agents worked.
8. Did other writers comes into play in terms of helping to manage stress/share good or bad news/revise your query or opening pages? 
 
I participated in every critique or pitch event I could to help hone my first pages. I also have a very loyal friend who pushes me, challenges me, and really helps me to be the best I can. She was amazing and instrumental in this novel getting to where it was now, mainly because of her ingenuity of turning tropes on their heads and her knowledge of the market and trends. ADVICE: don’t be afraid to make friends with people you never thought you would. Sometimes, those people have the best advice.
9. When did you get the call? Can you describe that day or moment for us?
Louise wasn’t the agent who got the ball rolling. She was actually someone I nudged and was my last call (12 hours before my deadline). I was on the way to a conference and pulled over to have the call with her. Off the bat, Louise flying back from South Africa to call me was really a good sign. Additionally, she had amazing insight about the novel, how to fix it, what to make better, me and my career, the type of writer I wanted to be and the type of person I was. Yes, an agent is a business partner but, especially being a young author, someone who I can grow with, challenge me, help me expand, and take what I think are my strengths and capitalize on them while bolstering my weakness, was important. Louise brought me all of that and more. We talked for 2 hours and I haven’t looked back.
10. Describe the querying process in 3 gifs. 




11. Tell us a little about your upcoming book
 
A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER follows seventeen-year-old James Mills, the adopted son of 2 USAID parents, on his family’s final humanitarian mission, which takes them to Kosovo. For James, this is the first trip without his older sister, Anna, and he expects it to be a fairly dull one. But when the Kosovo-Serbian war breaks out, and he becomes separated from his parents, James must navigate a war-torn country and unearthed familial secrets, if he hopes to get him and his Brazilian boyfriend back home safely.

12. Anything else you’d like to share??

Really enjoy the process. It all seems like a lot of wall hitting and annoyance. It’ll feel like you’ll never get there, but no ones road is the same. I know people who got accepted on their first novel, some on their 12th. Some after 1 year of writing and subbing, some after 5 years. No story is the same…but make sure you don’t lose what makes you who you are in the quest to follow your dreams. Because the right agent will love you for you, and when you find them; it’ll be amazing.
kosoko
Kosoko is a Washington D.C. native who has been writing novels since 9th grade. With a goal of bringing marginalized voices to the forefront of all genres of literature, Kosoko finds beauty in addressing complex questions & themes for young adults, aided by complex prose. Kosoko is a digital media associate for Rock the Vote and finishing his BS in Public Health with dual minors in History & Communications. When not writing or working, he is trying to finish his 100 movies in 2017 goal, walking the streets of DC, or trying to convert believers to the Cult of Wonder Woman.  He is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.
Posted in Beauty, fashion, travel

Claribel’s Closet: London 2017

Hey, pals. I’ve been wanting to document my travel wardrobe for some time now and after I got 12 billion questions about my red dress from London, I decided now was a good time to start. Below are all my outfits for the 2017 London Book Fair along with links and my thoughts on each piece! Hope you enjoy and please let me know in the comments if you have any questions ❤

 

 

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I wore this outfit for my first night out and I really loved it. The boots are super comfy and I really like the lace up design in the back. I’ve worn them since on a night where I walked a lot and had no pain issues. The open-back sweater is an older piece from Charlotte Russe, so I am not sure if it’s still available but I found another cute option that’s similar and included the link below. The phone case I actually didn’t order but it came with another case I bought by accident (lol oops.) It’s cute though, especially if you’re a fan of unicorns like me 🙂

Boots: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FN6PGV8/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_KaT5yb5W4VTJJ

Sweater dress: http://www.charlotterusse.com/open-back-sweater-dress/302213099.html

Phone case: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LXRS54P/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_QJS5yb7Y5YCDX

 

On the first day of the fair, I opted for this dark green vintage style swing dress. I spoke on a panel that day (which happened to be on an ALL PINK stage) so I wanted to offset my hair with a darker shade. This dress fits well/true to size. It’s especially flattering if you have a bigger bust, and it was definitely comfortable. Next time I wear it, I’ll have my hair up to show off the high collar. My shoes are originally from Modcloth but I purchased them a few years ago so I provided a different link below. This cellphone case is one of my favorites, both for the super cute pom-pom and because it doubles as a mirror.

Dress: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0162994L8/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Shoes: https://www.sourpussclothing.com/bettie-page-alicia-heels-pink.html

Cellphone case: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LZVX48G/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_KKN5ybESMZ0MS

I love the print on this dress but I wish the sleeves were 3/4 instead of capped. floral1Not because I don’t love cap sleeves because I do! But because the cut on this particular dress just wasn’t working for me. I have small arms, so I was sort of swimming in the sleeves but if your arms are on the bigger side this might work for you. I matched the dress with a pink cardigan and it was pretty cute.

 

My favorite dress of the trip! Comfortable, nice cut and flattering. I got tons of compliments with this outfit. The dress comes with a black belt which I didn’t use because it’s basic af and I hate belting my dresses. I spent several hours on my feet and the shoes gave me no issues. They are a little hard to buckle but besides that I recommend these if you’re in the market for a cute kitten heel. They also have a bunch of cute color options so I might get another pair.

Dress: http://secretofdiva.com/product/muxxn-womens-1950s-vintage-34-sleeve-pleated-scoop-neckline-swing-cocktail-dress/

Shoes: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01L2MXUEW/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_btU5ybKSF6E6C

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Let me know if you’d like more posts like this and please ask any questions you have about my outfits below!

Posted in giveaway, scholarpitch, writing

Scholarpitch Giveaway: BookExpo Passes & ARCS

Hi all! With the change in pricing to BookExpo ($300!) plus the upfront payment and stricter application process, many bloggers won’t be able to go to next year’s show. Scholarpitch wanted to do something to help marginalized bloggers so we’re happy to announce we’ll be choosing TWO bloggers from the PoC, LGBTQIA+ or Native American communities to get all days passes to BookExpo 2017. (One pass per blogger)

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There’s more! I know some of you won’t be able to come to NYC for the event so in addition to the two passes we’ll also be giving away a collection of ARCS from the show (Titles TBD) to help you experience BookExpo, even if you can’t be there.

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We have a form below where you’ll be able to choose between the BEA Pass or ARCS (*ARCS are only for people who can not attend the show.)

PLEASE only fill the form out once. If you do it more than once you’ll be disqualified and I’ll be really cranky with you for at least a week.

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Please only select BookExpo Pass on the form if you either live in or know for sure you will be able to travel to NYC. Travel expenses are *not* part of the prize. We’re not made of money, pals (but I sort of wish I was.)  So that’s it! Please fill out one of the two forms below & good luck!

(DEADLINE FOR THIS GIVEAWAY is JANUARY 15th, 2017)

 

FORM FOR BEA PASS or ARC Giveaway

  • Please note, you will need to provide either your blog, Instagram or BookTube link to be eligible. Please fill out at least one of those fields or as many as you have. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in writing, Youtube Video

New #BookTube Tag: #Diverse8

Hey all! I’m pretty new to the YouTube world and run an AuthorTube (writing)/Booktube (duh, books) channel. I’ve started my very first tag called #Diverse8!

Diverse8 is eight questions about books and diversity meant to expand the conversation about equal and respectful representation in literature and the need for those books to be reviewed, discussed and promoted on BookTube. I’d love if you could like and share the original video and if you have your own BookTube channel please consider filming your own #Diverse8 tag video as well! Please find the video & questions below!

 

 

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Posted in writing

Magical Diversity Council

Hey all! I recently wrote a thread on Twitter about writing diversely which you can see here:

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From that thread the term Magical Diversity Council was born and you can get your very own tshirt, sweatshirt or mug with the Magical Diversity Council logo on it. 50% of all proceeds from the merchandise will go to The David Ortiz Children’s Fund which is committed to helping children in New England and the Dominican Republic who do not have access to the critical pediatric services they need. 50% of all proceeds go to the fund and the merchandise is on sale for 10 days only!

Order your merchandise here: https://teespring.com/magical-diversity-council-merc#pid=370&cid=6546&sid=front

Posted in writing

Cold Spring, NY

Moto Poet:

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Se encontraron las masas en aquella esquinita floja.
Los niños no supieron distinguir el mal del bien,
creo que la sanidad no los dejaba.
Y por un instante pasamos desapercibidos.
Todos éramos uno, sin odio, sin agravio, llenos de amor.

El otoño apenas asomaba sus colores,
el Hudson vitrineando como siempre con su briza.
El tren con su vaivén bailando sobre el horizonte.

¿Y quién se encarga de pintar todas estas casas?
¿Quién decora las fachadas que resguardan sus tesoros?
¿Quién se inventa este arcoíris de inspiración?

Arte y chucherías, prendas, música,
comida, de todo un poco, y de nada hay mucho,
Y gente sobre la gente, sin incomodar a nadie.

El fiambre cantando sobre aromas confundidas
Desde la Chestnut hasta la West,
el Hudson Hill’s y Moo Moo’s ice cream,
el Bouchon y Silver Spoon.

Y los incrédulos levantan la mirada entregándose al casi mar del rio,
a la majestuosa…

View original post 59 more words

Posted in writing

Day 1 – Left Westchester, NY at 9. Then I went back home

Moto Poet:

I left with the road in mind,and adventure as a matter of fact.I rode with what I left behind in mind,and sad as a matter of fact.And ahead were more day to leave behind,and roads to have ridden in the past.I left with the end in mind,and adventure, as a matter of fact!

img_20161028_122015You see, I was originally planning to leave on Thursday the 27th but due to a combination of procrastination , horrible weather, and a last minute cold I ended up leaving on Friday the 28th instead. Once I had left I realized I still had to run a couple of errand, so all things considered I officially left at 10am.

My plan was to head to Austin, TX as quick as possible (3 – 4 days) where I would meet Pat from 2ridetheglobe who has provided great insight in planning the…

View original post 550 more words

Posted in Short Stories, writing

The Collector

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It was winter in Ridgefield. December to be exact. And that meant one thing: snow. Sheets of it were pulled around the houses like a giant white curtain, hiding them from the trees that surrounded everything. It covered the roofs, the mailboxes, the dogs. And Magnolia was almost certain it had made its way inside her left shoe. It was nothing like the city. Where snow fell and turned to grey mush beneath the feet of pedestrians in less than a minute. Here the snow fell in white tufts and stuck to every surface it could find. And it stayed there indefinitely.

But Magnolia, unlike the snow, was just passing through. On her way to track a witch.

“I knew. I knew I should’ve ridden my broom here,” she whispered to her left shoe, admonishing it for getting her wool socks wet. She had worn three on each foot. Just in case. A man in one of those hats with the fluff balls on the top of it walked by just then, and Magnolia smiled weakly. Had he heard her? If he had, he didn’t show it. He just smiled back and waved. Magnolia put her head down, plowing forward and passing the fountain at the entrance of town.

Witches weren’t so bad. Magnolia knew since she was one. But humans couldn’t know about them. No. Never. That would be very, very unfortunate.

“I’m here for a relic,” she practiced under her breath.  A group of children skipped past her, kicking snow into the air.

Magnolia shielded her face from the flying snow and tried to focus on what she would tell him. The Collector. A chill that had nothing to do with the freezing temperature infiltrated her heavy black robe.

“I am here for a relic.” She tried with more assertion and yet another town’s person walked by and waved. She cursed herself for not performing an invisibility spell.

“Collector,” she said through her teeth, as ferociously as she could in a whisper, “I’m here for a relic and I won’t leave till you give it to me.” She poked one finger at the air, flurries gathering on her gloved hands.

By the time the family of very tall humans stalked past her like elegant giraffes, smiling and waving, Magnolia had lost what little cool she’d managed to dig her nails into.

“Will no one in this town let me concentrate?”

With two long strides the giraffe family had gone and Magnolia felt a wave of guilt wash over her. But then she remembered who she was going to see. Or more accurately what. Because The Collector was more thing than witch. More creature than human. More nightmare than reality.

Her socks soaked up more snow as she trudged down Main Street, rehearsing her tirade.

She looked around to see if she spotted any other Magicks around, but the tell-tale colorful aura that surrounded Magicks for a split second on sight didn’t seem to exist here. In the city it was like a small fireworks explosion to just walk down the street. Greens, purples and reds, in clouds of hazy light, surrounded both the Punks on Bleecker and the business men on Park. All Magicks and witches. All concealed in plain sight. But even New York City, with all its hidden shops and secrets, didn’t hold the answer she was looking for. A relic, or a thing from the past, that would allow her to look at a memory. It could be anything: a dress worn by a witch, a nickel held in the hand of a monster, a rock. It didn’t matter, so long as it was present at the very moment Magnolia needed to see. At the memory of some other witch she needed to creep into. Or of one very specific witch. Margo Pennyfeather.

Magnolia’s chest tightened with the thought of her but she pressed on. She needed to stop somewhere before she reached her destination and make sure she had everything. Her wand, her book, her weapon.

“Oh dear,” she whispered at her now sopping shoe. The weapon was something she did not like to think about. Not at all. But her apprentice Morrissey had found it prudent she have it.

“Take it,” she’d said in her soft way. “Take it or I’ll find a way to come with you. Your choice.”

Magnolia scowled. If Morrissey had come with her things would have been much, much worse. Because The Collector might not care to keep an old witch like her. But for one with Morrissey’s ability? He would do unspeakable things.

“Unspeakable,” she muttered, waving to a priest with a flashlight smile. She’d never waved so much in her entire life.

Crossing the street to Four Twenty-Six Main Street, Magnolia looked both ways before slipping into an alleyway. She pulled her wand from the sleeve of her dress, looking around and letting out tiny puffs of vapor as she did. When she was sure no one was looking she pointed the wand at her chest.

“Blot.” A wave of warmth washed over her and she hid her wand with much less caution. She was invisible now.

“Should’ve done that before I left New York,” her eyes scanned the doors along the brick walls. Doors that weren’t there a moment ago. That humans could not see. Chalk drawings sat above each entrance, signaling the name of each establishment. An owl with giant eyes for The Hoot, a bar for Magicks, a rabbit above another for The White Rabbit Inn, and a few others that were of no interest to her. “At least not right now,” she licked her lips at the small rodent drawn above The Rat cheese shop.

She reached the end of the building. A purple door with a skinny tree drawn in white chalk above it, the eerie tree enveloped in green mist: Hollibird’s Hole.

Magnolia pushed at the door and the smell of firewood, hot chocolate and what smelled suspiciously of burning hair, snaked its way up her nostrils. She took a deep breath and smiled.

“Yoo-hoo,” she waved her hand at the elderly bartender who grunted in response. So much for all the waving.

“You’re always too cheerful,” the bartender spit into a small gold tin on the wooden bar and flicked her wrist.  A mug flew from a hook above her head and landed with a clank on the bar. The bartender snapped her finger, the mug filling to the brim with bubbling brown liquid and white floating clouds. “And you always did love marshmallows,” the bartender smiled a crooked smile with only a handful of teeth at Magnolia.

“Griswold, I was beginning to think you’d forgotten me.” Magnolia wrapped her numb hands around the hot cup and wished she could pour the chocolate down her dress to warm up. But that would probably be a bad idea. Definitely she thought as the hot liquid washed over her tongue and warmed her insides.

“I might’ve. Depends if you brought me one of those banana puddings I like.”

Magnolia produced a package from the inside of her robes. “I would never forget your pudding,” she winked.

“So what’re you doing here?” Griswold asked.

“I came to see someone.”

Griswold arched an eyebrow. Because they both knew there was only one other reason Magicks ventured beyond the city and into Ridgefield. The Collector.

“You can’t go there, Maggie,” hissed Griswold. “You know how dangerous he is.”

“It’s very, very important.”

“You say that about everything. Last time you called me saying, “I need a block of cheese from The Rat, it’s, “‘very, very important.’”

“Hush now, hush,” Magnolia waved her hand in front of Griswold’s face as she laughed, exposing the back of her too dark throat and lack of molars. “This is different. This has to do with…well, I can’t tell you.”

“If you can’t tell me, I can’t help ya,” Griswold began wiping the bar down.

Magnolia bit her lip. She was absolutely, forbidden from talking to anyone about the memory she had to find. The one she had to see before the entire Magick world was rewound. Erased. Doomed. No pressure.
“One step at a time,” she whispered at her shoe, which was drying as she stretched one leg out towards the fire.

Magnolia sighed. “I need a relic,” she confessed, “one tied to a witch.” Griswold nodded as if to say go on.

“A relic tied to Margo Pennyfeather,” Magnolia got out in the smallest whisper she could manage, but the blow of that name still nearly knocked Griswold off her feet.

The Timeteller?” Griswold’s eyes had gone wide. Timetellers weren’t around anymore. They’d been hunted for their powers and killed off. It seemed the power to control time was something no witch could resist.  But no one knew what happened to the last one. To Margo.

“Yes,” hissed Magnolia looking around, “But keep. It. Down. Will you?”

Griswold held her hands up.

“You wouldn’t happen to have anything that would help me? Some sort of potion maybe?” Magnolia asked.

Griswold arched an eyebrow before disappearing under the bar. Magnolia peaked over the wooden surface when Griswold popped up and nearly knocked her nose back to last Tuesday.

“Here,” she shoved a small bottle into Magnolia’s hand.

“What’s this? Oh, oh no!”

“Now you hush.”

They were both looking around like dogs in a park full of squirrels. Luckily there was only one witch with his back to them in the corner of the bar, a dozen or so glasses adorning the table in front of him.

Magnolia turned the bottle over in her hand, the pink liquid swishing inside of it. A Charm spell could make another Magick do anything you wanted. Like the force except it was illegal. Highly illegal.

“Use that and he’ll give you whatever you want,” Griswold smiled smugly. “You’re probably toast but at least this way you have a fighting chance.”

Magnolia nodded. She knew Griswold was right.

“I’ll be right back,” Magnolia walked towards the rest room.

Slipping into a stall, she opened her robe and felt for her supplies. She had her wand, she had her hollowed out book. And now she had her weapon. She put the Charm spell inside a secret pocket on the lapel of her robe and took a deep breath, pressing her warm hands against her still gelid cheeks. Soon she’d be out in the snow again. Waving like a mayor in a parade. Soon she’d be face to face with death.

“I’ve got to go,” Magnolia stood before Griswold, one hand behind her back.

“So soon?” Griswold didn’t look up from the bar.

“I’m sorry.”

“What fo…”

But before she could finish her sentence, Magnolia had blown an electric purple powder into the air.

Remember me not,” she whispered as she blew the lilac cloud towards Griswold and then towards the witch behind her. She’d bottled a Memory Keeper spell for just this occasion.

A dazed look overtook Griswold and Magnolia snuck out of the bar, taking the memory of their meeting with her. Soon it would be as if Magnolia had never been there at all.

Stepping out into the frigid cold, night had nearly fallen on Ridgefield, and Magnolia turned to her right. Towards the library.

There were no more pedestrians. No more giant dogs trying to eat snow. She was alone with the crows. It was if word had spread of her mission. As if everyone knew a witch was about to die.

She stepped in front of the giant doors to The Ridgefield Library and pulled.

“Oh.” The door did not budge. “Right.” Magnolia pulled out her wand and ran it along the place where the two doors met. Inside, she breathed in the smell of old books. She crept along the entrance and down the hallway and towards the stairs, knowing that the moment her hand touched the banister there would be no turning back. Because The Collector would know she was there.

In the Magick world there were all sorts of witches and creatures. Witches who could run at lightning fast speeds, or control nature and monsters who could suck the power from their prey. But The Collector was one of a kind. He not only took magic, he took actual witches. Kept them in his collection, siphoning off bits and pieces of them until they shriveled away like a wilted flower in the too hot sun. And he always stayed hidden. A shadow, a breeze that played with your hair, a whisper that lured you to your imprisonment. To your death.

“Tricky. I know you’re tricky,” Magnolia whispered. Her shoe was mercifully dry and she felt badly for yelling at it earlier, when it was doing such a good job of not being wet anymore. She took the small pink vial filled with magic and placed it gingerly inside the woolen socks on her left foot. With one final, deep breath, she placed her plump hand on the banister and was plunged into a darkness so black, she was certain she’d never actually seen before, and never would again.

All at once she was downstairs and in The Collectors lair. It still looked like a library, except ancient. Thousands of leather bound books with golden lettering were organized neatly in floor to ceiling shelves. But Magnolia knew better than to think they were simply books. No. These were The Collector’s cages.

“Magnolia,” an old man with spectacles too big for his small face stepped out from behind a shadow. “I expect your walk here was quite cold.” He smiled kindly but Magnolia shuddered. The smile was an ordinary one but a vision of blood-covered teeth appeared over it. Like he had two smiles in one mouth.

“Hideous,” whispered Magnolia despite herself.

“I know. Quite. Now, tell me why’ve come here? It’s…after hours.”

“I…need something…from,” she looked down. She needed to do this. If Magnolia was going to stop the Magick World from poofing, she needed to find out what’d happened to Margo. And fast. Or everything she knew, and loved would be lost.

“From my collection,” The Collector said and as he did he seemed to grow ten feet tall, stretched like an infinite, gruesome shadow, but small and old and frail all the same.

“Yes, but please listen. It’s important.”

“Nobody takes anything from my collection,” he ran one boney finger along the spines of the books closest to him, a black jagged nail growing from it.

Magnolia steeled herself and took one step forward.

“Not even sneaky, lying, thieves.”

Magnolia took another step.

“Your left shoe is quite nice.”

Magnolia froze.

How had he known? She smiled weakly at him and nodded. “It’s my favorite shoe.”

“I can tell,” The Collector whipped his head towards her and flashed his bloody, double smile before shooting one hand towards her. A black putrid liquid oozed from his palm and snaked through the air.

“NO!” Magnolia shuffled back, pawing at her robes as she looked for her wand. Now she had no choice. She had to fight. She found the smooth wooden stick and pointed it at The Collectors head.

A bright green light shot from her wand, but missed.

The Collector cackled. He’d begun climbing the stacks like a twisted monkey, his old body limber and fast, his tall horrendous shadow figure and bloody teeth following him and enveloping his form.

“I’d quite like another Alchemist witch to add to my collection,” he said pleasantly.

“You won’t be trapping me you hideous thing,” Magnolia shot her wand at him again but this time The Collector swooped down and grabbed her by the ankles, slamming her on her back. Stars danced above Magnolia’s head. She was as good as dead.

“Now, now my simple friend. No rudeness or I’ll make this much more painful than I planned to.”

Everyone always thought she was simple. Magnolia knew they all thought she was dumb. But she also knew that looks could be deceiving. In fact, she counted on them being so.

She slammed her left heel against the floor and her dark leather shoe broke free of her foot and scampered away behind The Collector. Magnolia thrust her wand beneath his chin. Her woolen socks had wrapped themselves around his wrist, keeping them locked together.

“LET GO,” he roared trying to turn around and catch Magnolia’s shoe, which was never really a shoe at all. The leather thing transformed, revealing a small, furry creature. Her rat, Francisco. Using it’s tiny paws, the rodent pulled the cork and drank the pink liquid hungrily. Then he put the entire bottle in his mouth and ate that too. Just in case.

“I said just drink Francisco,” Magnolia grit her teeth, struggling to keep The Collector from biting her face off.

Glass crunched and popped inside the rat’s mouth as a pink mist seeped from its teeth. “Now?” he asked in his tiny voice and Magnolia managed a nod before Francisco, scurried up The Collectors back and to the top of his head.

“No, no, no!” wailed the creature but it was too late. Francisco opened his mouth and breathed the pink Charm magic right up The Collectors nose.

“It’ll need to be concentrated,” Magnolia heard Morrissey say, “You’ll need to get the spell so close he can’t help but breathe it in. It’s either kiss him or…something else.”

And Ricardo had been Magnolia’s something else.

A glazed look overtook The Collector’s eyes and Magnolia let out a sharp breath.

“Let go,” she commanded her socks and they did.

“Stop,” she told The Collector and his wild attempts to kill her stilled.

“You will be sorry,” he said his voice so loud the books threatened to tumble from their shelves.

“Give me the relic that holds the memory of Margo Pennyfeather’s fate,” Magnolia’s voice was shaky as she shuffled backwards.

“No,” said The Collector with his bloody smile, but he moved towards the shelves all the same. He took a book from a shelf towards the back of the room and waddled back to Magnolia, who had her wand trained on him, and Francisco on her shoulder.

“I only have the first part. You’ll need to find the rest elsewhere, if you live long enough to. I am going to kill you, you know.”

“Yes, of course,” Magnolia took the book from him and he snapped towards her hand wildly, but she told him to stop, and he had no choice but to listen. Charm spells really were useful. It was too bad about the illegal part.

She gave one final command. “Stay there until I am gone. Don’t follow me.”

Magnolia ran back towards the stairs, hiding the relic inside her hollowed-out book. She put her hand on the banister and could just hear The Collector as she was transported through the darkness and into the upper part of the library. “You will be quite delicious to eat when I catch you. And I will catch you. Of course.”

She shivered as she ran through the hallway and out the library double doors. She stepped right into a pile of snow. “Great,” she muttered looking at Francisco as he shrugged and scampered down her robe, wrapping himself around her foot, a shoe once more.

As soon as she was far enough from the library she smiled. She had done it. The relic was in her possession and, maybe, she’d be able to see what happened to Margo all those years ago & figure out the riddle of what was happening to her world today. But for now, there was nothing to do but go home. She trudged along, whispering compliments to Francisco for his good work as a new snow began to fall. Magnolia stopped and looked up into the starry night sky. Even the city sky, filled with magic, was not nearly as beautiful as this one. She opened her mouth wide and closed her eyes. The snowflakes melted the moment they touched her tongue.

Posted in writing

Cover Reveal! Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

When I first got this cover my brain was somewhere between “daaaaaaaaamn,” and “THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL!” So I’m excited to share it with you today! Kellye is my agency sister, a friend and a mentor who supports other writers and is a tremendous talent. I hope you enjoy the excerpt below, the gorgeous cover and most importantly order the book!

Special bonus! I will choose a random winner from everyone who buys Kellye’s book today to win a special prize! Make sure you use the #HollywoodHomicide tag and help us get Kellye trending! Also @ me on Twitter (@Claribel_Ortega) to let me know you’ve entered!


 

Title: Hollywood Homicide

Book 1 in the Detective By Day Series

Publisher: Midnight Ink

Release Date: August 8, 2017

Book Blurb:

Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semi-famous, mega-broke black actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. After witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she figures pursuing the fifteen-grand reward isn’t the craziest thing a Hollywood actress has done for some cash.

But what starts as simply trying to remember a speeding car soon blossoms into a full-on investigation. As Dayna digs deeper into the victim’s life, she wants more than just reward money. She’s determined to find the poor woman’s killer too. When she connects the accident to a notorious Hollywood crime spree, Dayna chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes and movie premieres. She loves every second—until someone tries to kill her.

And there are no second takes in real life.

Hollywood Homicide.jpg

 

About Kellye Garrett

kellye-garrett

Kellye Garrett spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. People were always surprised to learn what she did for a living—probably because she seemed way too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. A former magazine editor, Kellye holds a B.S. in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company—while still happily brainstorming ways to commit murder. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, will be released by Midnight Ink in August 2017. It’s the first book in the Detective by Day series.

Connect with Kellye

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

You can pre-order the e-book and print edition on Amazon.

 

 

Posted in YA fiction, Young Adult Books

Kill That Noise – Leave YA Alone 

hardjealousearthworm

 

Hey nerds, today I’m going to lay some shit down because I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with a certain something: posts disparaging young adult fiction.

Whether it’s a boring dad-dude telling us how uncomplicated our stories are or posts on how easy it is to write/make money off young adult books- the think pieces taking a crap all over YA need to do one more thing: stop-for-fucking-ever.

The New York Times posted an article calling some YA “paranormal lunacy,” and while that might’ve made a cool new wave band name, it actually sets my face on fire with how insensitive it is.

The article mentions some kick ass books that I’m super excited about but you know the thing where you shouldn’t put something down as a way to celebrate another? The whole,
“She’s special, not like other girls” thing? Yeah the people who keep writing these posts don’t know how to say, “this is good,” without also saying, “this other thing though? It’s actually diarrhea.” They also don’t know that the “not like the other girls” trope is bad and we all make fun of it. Most likely because they don’t actually read the kinds of books they’re bashing.

A NYT piece glossing over an entire genre (SFF) as wacky and not worthy of being taken seriously, is akin to getting super pissed off about a satire article because you didn’t scroll to the end, then sharing it on Facebook. I know you only read the headline, you useless paperclip, and now your Aunt Helen does too. Be ashamed.

It’s time for people who write think pieces to actually think for two minutes, maybe three, before insulting an entire community of hardworking writers. Many of whom are trying to break into an industry where we are historically and overwhelmingly underrepresented. Otherwise, your article is less of a think piece and more of a piece of something else. And frankly, we’re tired of everyone’s shit.

Interview librarians, booksellers, I don’t know perhaps YA authors who celebrate rather than bash their peers. Authors who actually read YA and didn’t crop up just to tell the rest of us how badly we’re doing it.

This is not against any of the authors in The New York Times and the important issues they’re tackling head on. I support them. But I don’t support the assumption that genre fiction is not also capable of carrying that weight. It ignores books like SHADOWSHAPER (which talks about gentrification and self-image among many other things) THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE (mental health issues) and yes even thought it’s not fantasy, HUNGER GAMES ( because if kids killing one another to survive in a dictatorship is not gritty, I don’t know what is.) It ignores these books in favor of the regurgitated, “Wasn’t Twilight terrible?” argument we’ve been hearing since K-Stew sighed her way through all five movies. And these are just three of many, many examples. All lumped under one label that fails to recognize their depth, their complexity, their worth.

And always with the Twilight bashing. It’s such an easy/predictable target at this point. Not only are you clueless about YA bu you’re also unoriginal. Pick a struggle. (Also you probably read and loved Twilight you lying piece of stale potato bread.)

A more interesting approach would’ve been how the current sociopolitical climate in our world is informing some of the books that are being published. How great it is that YA writers are helping kids understand movements like Black Lives Matter. Or that writers of color are being published and doing amazing work. No where in any of those scenarios do other writers (of an entire genre) need to be insulted.

But of all the crappy, misinformed parts of articles like these, the part that’s really the rocket up the ass, is how they disrespect YA’s intended audience. Yeah, remember teens? They’re reading those pieces too, desperate for info on their most anticipated releases and in the process being told the other books they love are garbage juice. Or the teen writer who just mustered the courage to write that paranormal novel and is now too embarrassed to keep going. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but teens kind of love that stuff you call “lunacy.” Way to go you spam-email -of -a-human.  Your Aunt Helen might think your post was no big deal, but it matters to us. It hurts writers. It annoys us and angers us and we have to read a new article about how clueless/useless/shallow we are every other week. So to sum it up, I respectfully and not so respectfully disagree AF with everyone who dismisses all the wonderful layers contained within YA books. You can fight me, Aunt Helen.